Birthday sex. It sounds kind of perfect, doesn’t it? What better way to mark the end of one year and ring in — or bang in — another than a little bit of an endorphin rush.
It’s also one of those occasions toxic people use to make us do things we’re uncomfortable with.
In an ideal situation, a birthday or anniversary is a great time to say “Hey, you know that thing we’ve been saying we should try? Well…” Or even “I love when you spoil me. Can we plan on that tonight?” But that’s often not the case, especially with toxic masculinity maintaining its influence in so many relationships. Instead of being fun for both people — as sex should be! — birthday sex gets twisted as a way manipulative people try to coerce their partners.
For whatever reason, perhaps because it’s the most accessible of “taboo” activities, anal sex is often the go-to for guys who feel like they have carte blanche with their partners. Someone I know called this “banal,” with an eyeroll, and the portmanteau exactly fits dudes who press for buttsex when they feel their partners have an anniversary-based obligation.
Let’s be clear about this. We don’t owe our partners anal, a threesome, a strip show, or anything else if we don’t want to do those things, especially not because of an arbitrary calendar date. Try asking for a ménage a tois because it’s Arbor Day and see how that goes.
Even outside such harmful dynamics, building up birthday sex as a mind-blowing event only sets it up for failure. If you and your partner have been going through a bit of a lull, for example, trying to plan something elaborate to jump back in will add more than a dash of performance anxiety. If you have a new toy, technique, or position you want to try, being on the same page and having a sense of playfulness about the unknown option is necessary so you both don’t sit with your backs against the pillows saying “I thought you’d like it!”
If you want awesome sex on your birthday, you have to treat it like you would on any other day. Get elaborate and break out the rubber lingerie and sex toys if you want. Plan a simple-roll around if that’s your style. Talk to your partner about that thing you’ve both been meaning to try but haven’t gotten to. The point is, consent, emotional safety, and respect have to be there just as they are any other time. If someone is pressing you to do something they want — but you’re reticent about, or don’t like — that’s your signal to slam on the brakes.
We don’t owe our partners a decadent roll-around just because it’s their birthday. We owe each other the respect and care that should be present every day, whether we’re trying something new or sticking with the warm and familiar.
Just because someone else is blowing out the candles doesn’t mean they get to blow off your needs.